Being skeptical of anything that bears the Fable name, you can imagine my weariness of going into Fable Heroes. It's not that I didn't enjoy previous Fable games, it's that I was one of the many that fell victim to the many promises of what each subsequent Fable game will be. That said, I went into Fable Heroes not knowing much about it, and I think it was all for the better, because I ultimately ended up having a great time with the game.
Fable Heroes is a very lighthearted take on the Fable universe (if an even more lighthearted take on Fable could be possible) which stars the Fable puppets that resemble the characters from previous Fable games. You'll get to play as the Hero, Garth, Reaver and the like, with even more puppets to unlock as you play the game.
Fable Heroes plays out much like any brawler you've played before. With a simple button press, you'll be hacking and slashing your enemies to oblivion. Every character has a flourish move, which deals a significant amount of damage; it just takes longer to execute. There is no question that the gameplay screams of familiarity, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Fable Heroes takes that brawling formula and infuses it with Fable charm.
Much of the gameplay revolves around taking your team of four puppets through various iconic levels, which are filled with familiar enemies such as Hobbes and Balverines. This is where the co-opetition comes into play. A bulk of the game relies on collecting coins which rain from enemies or various destructible objects. You and your friends (or AI companions) simultaneously help each other out by defeating enemies, but at the same time compete for the most amount of gold. Accumulating a lot of gold is important since it's the only way for you to level your puppets up — but more on that later. Scattered throughout each level are powerup chests, which can contain either buffs or debuffs, so gunning for the chest isn't always the smart thing to do.
At the end of each level is a fork in the road that either takes you to a boss fight, or a Mario Party-esque mini game. The boss fights are mostly formulaic; you hit them a bit, wait for them to attack, evade, kill their minions, and repeat. It's mostly mindless and chaotic, but fun if you have three other people playing along.
The mini-games will have you dodging exploding chickens, surviving an onslaught of zombies, taking a ride on mine carts, etc. These are largely forgettable and aren't as fun as they sound, but they are a great way to farm gold for your upgrades.
Upgrading your character takes place on a board game, complete with dice rolls and monopoly style gameplay. As you earn gold, you get a certain amount of dice rolls. The spot you land on then determines what upgrade you can buy for your puppet. You can upgrade everything from movement speed, to attack damage, to bigger weapons, various emotes, and even unlock new puppets to play as. It's an interesting concept that gets a bit tedious however, when you've already unlocked a fair amount of upgrades, only to hope you land on a square that contains something you haven't yet purchased.
So you're thinking, what about being good or evil, a staple that the series is known for. There is a way to screw over other players. Scattered in levels are "good" and "evil" chests. A good chest will bestow a random character constant gold for about 10 seconds, while an evil chest will take a random players gold away. For a game that absolutely relies on coin collection, you have to be one mean player to actually want to cause someone to lose their gold.
It is for that reason that I think Fable Heroes is almost more enjoyable when played on your own with AI companions. If you're not in the game to upgrade your character, you're fine, but seeing as though your puppets are so underpowered and require upgrading, you'll be fighting for gold for the most part. When playing with AI, they're so oblivious to the gold that you'll always have stacks above them, making upgrading the puppet of your choice much easier.
The game also features Fable: The Journey integration, which will unlock a level and two extra puppets for you to play as once the game comes out. It's smart marketing for their upcoming game, but I'm disappointed that's the only way to unlock those things. I'd much rather have them being harder to acquire than impossible without another game purchase.
Graphically, however, Fable Heroes looks great. The cel-shaded art style only amplifies the charm which exudes from the game, and the puppets are fairly cute for the most part. The whimsical music that's standard for the series is also present here. If you're familiar with Fable, you'll appreciate the love and attention Lionhead Studios put into Fable Heroes.
If you're expecting a deeper experience beyond the hacking and slashing, you might want to look elsewhere. That being said, Fable Heroes is entertaining and easily provides hours of hack and slashing fun.